Controversial coal executive Robert Murray is planning a fundraiser for Ted CruzTed CruzRepublicans giving Univision the cold shoulder: report How 'Big Pharma' stifles pharmaceutical innovation AIPAC must reach out to President Trump MORE on April 6, though he says he isn’t endorsing the Texas senator for president.
Murray, the CEO of the Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp., said he would support the eventual Republican nominee but wants to help fill Cruz’s campaign account to keep him competitive with front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCombating opioid epidemic, repealing ObamaCare will hurt the cause Money doesn't buy elections and elections aren't rigged. Period. Ongoing wiretapping saga raises host of legal questions MORE.
“I have not picked a candidate, but I do know that Ted Cruz needs some money,” Murray told The Hill from his office in St. Clairsville, Ohio, which is located directly over a coal mine. “I think at this time in this scramble that helping Ted Cruz probably helps America in keeping the situation going for a time.”
"Realistically, that's all we'll have, and that's all we're planning for," he said.
Murray is holding the event personally, and his company is not involved in any way, he emphasized.
“Ted Cruz has been the strongest on coal so far,” Murray said, mentioning a Dec. 9 hearing where Cruz, chairman of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on science, challenged the accuracy and objectivity of climate change research. The hearing was titled: “Data or Dogma?”
He has been holding similar events in order to stay competitive with the billionaire businessman. The Cruz campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Energy has not been a top issue in the presidential campaign so far, but a recent remark from Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDemocrat in district won by Trump running for governor Combating opioid epidemic, repealing ObamaCare will hurt the cause Money doesn't buy elections and elections aren't rigged. Period. MORE drew new outrage from the coal industry.
“This is all a human issue to me. That's why I'm having the fundraising event in the heart of the coal fields in Wheeling, West Virginia,” Murray said.
“Hillary Clinton said, ‘We're gonna put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,’” Murray said, referring comments she made earlier this month in a town hall. “That's exactly what she said.”
Although Clinton immediately followed it up by saying she would "make it clear that we don't want to forget those people” who had worked in the mines, the damage had been done.
Asked about ticket packages and contribution amounts for the fundraiser, Murray said: “You don't have to give at all, and you can come and enjoy the dinner and the evening. That is stated clearly in every invitation that I send out.”
“I never know who contributes and who doesn't,” he added, “and never want to know.”
Murray himself has given more than $631,000 to federal candidates and political action committees since the 2008 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission records. About $86,902 of that went to CoalPAC, run by the National Mining Association, and Murray Energy's political action committee, both of which distribute funds to candidates.
Though he has not given to a presidential candidate this cycle, Murray donated $2,014 to Cruz’s Senate campaign in 2012 and $8,000 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run. In 2011, Murray contributed $2,000 to Rick Perry’s failed White House bid.
Murray also sits on the host committee for this summer's Republican National Convention and helped bring the nominating convention to Cleveland.
Politico first reported the Cruz fundraiser on Wednesday.
Murray has become an outspoken figure in the energy world.
Both Murray and his company have fought nearly every federal law and regulation affecting the coal industry, including those to limit acid rain, mercury, greenhouse gases and harm to streams from mountaintop removal mining.
He has filed several lawsuits against the Obama administration to overturn those rules and others, like recent Department of Labor efforts to cut miners’ exposure to coal dust, which is thought to cause black lung disease.
Murray Energy is one of the lead litigants trying to overturn the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s landmark climate change regulation that is expected to result in a significant reduction of coal-fired electricity.
Even the George W. Bush administration faced Murray’s ire: He called its proposal to toughen U.S. emission standards a “criminal fraud” carried out by a “terrible government and a terrible president.”
During the 2012 elections, Murray and his company attracted negative attention for what some employees said was a heavy-handed approach to political participation and giving.
When Romney made a campaign stop at an Ohio mine to promote jobs in the coal industry, for example, the mine was closed for the day and employees were told to attend the rally.
Managers "communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend," Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore said in a radio interview at the time, adding that the company did not penalize no-shows.
Timothy Cama contributed to this report.